Facing an Empty Calendar, Six Dutch Old Master Dealers Will Launch Their Own Humble Art Fair at an Amsterdam Hotel

The Art Affair, as the event is called, will be held in a hotel in Amsterdam.

Japanese Lacquer cabinet on a French giltwood Régence stand, circa 1690. Courtesy of Kollenburg Antiquairs, Oirschot, the Netherlands.

By now, many of the major art fairs Old Master dealers rely on—Frieze Masters, TEFAF New York, and La Biennale Paris—have been cancelled for 2020. Whether or not TEFAF Maastricht, the mother of all Old Master fairs, will take place next spring is anybody’s guess (especially considering the heat organizers took after numerous fairgoers contracted COVID-19 at the March event).

That’s why half a dozen Dutch Old Master galleries are taking matters into their own hands this September with the launch of their own art fair—or Art Affair, as it’s cleverly called. The event is emblematic of the kind of hyper-local, highly specialized gathering that may become more common in the social-distancing era. 

The expo, scheduled to run from September 3 through 6 at a ballroom at the Hilton hotel in Amsterdam, will be decidedly humbler than the aforementioned brand-name international events. But while there probably won’t be any oysters or cinematic floral arrangements, you also won’t have to pay to get in. The organizers are promoting the experience as a quaint and—most importantly—spacious opportunity for collectors and causal art lovers alike to get some face time with art and the people who sell it. 

The idea for a communal event first came to the organizers, who know one another from years of participating at TEFAF Maastricht, two months ago. “It became apparent then that larger art fairs couldn’t take place due to the ongoing pandemic,” Robert Aronson, an Amsterdam based antiques dealer, tells Artnet News. “However, from our clientele, we got the message that they wanted to come visit us under proper and safe circumstances. We got together and decided to go ahead with a small-scale event.”

The expo will adhere to the current guidelines laid out by the Dutch Centers for Disease Control. There will be no tickets or timed appointments, but capacity will be capped at 40 people.  

Among the galleries participating are A. Aardewerk from the Hague, Kunstgalerij Albricht from Oosterbeek, Bijl-Van Urk from Alkmaar, Jaski Gallery from Amsterdam, and Kollenburg Antiquairs from Oirschot.

It’s a small snapshot of the country’s art and antiques landscape that is otherwise lost in the global ambitions of a bigger fair. 

“The overhead of the larger events might make it more difficult to continue with a smaller committed group of exhibitors,” Aronson notes. “So it is very well possible that for the time being we might see more of these small events, rather than full-blown art fairs.” 

As for any event in 2020, there are still a lot of question marks. Will people feel comfortable attending? Will they be inclined to spend money on art? But for the participating dealers, success in 2020 is being graded on a curve. 

“It might sound cliché, but the fact that we are finding each other as friends and colleagues and we will surely see a number of our clients already make the event successful,” Aronson says. “Who knows what the future will hold, but united we stand stronger.” 


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